Monday, June 11, 2012

Wetland in a Desert: Jahra Pool Reserve, Kuwait.

Late May 2012. Jahra Pool Reserve, State of Kuwait. 

Last summer my friend Aris and I visited what I termed an "incredible small wetland" on Kuwait Bay: Jahra Pools Reserve ( We went back one blistering hot morning on the 29th of May to have a look at the reserve in the company of the reserve supervisor, Mr. Khalid M. Al-Ghanem - one of Kuwait's best-known ornithologists. My friend Nancy and I were really impressed at the potential that this reserve has to offer. And important changes are taking place here. The area of the reserve will expand to cover approximately 20 Km2 - while it previously covered only 0.7 Km2. Water is being supplied from tertiary treated waste water and new pipe installations are being incorporated. Although a petroleum pipeline project has recently disturbed part of the reserve the mitigation measures may actually help re-order and expand protected wetland habitat. Of course, just like my last visit last year the place was incredibly bird rich - we tallied 30 species of birds in less than an hour visit (and we visited very late in the day: 10:30-11:15 am). I was impressed at the large numbers of nesting Black-winged Stilts and lots of late-present spring migratory birds (White-winged Terns, Golden Oriole, Red-necked Phalarope et. al.). The snapshots below show the general near-midday scene- including: a) huge expanses of recently flooded water bodies (shallow pools on the Sabkha salt flats); b) Tamarisk die-back probably due to salinization of the area's ground waters; c) specific traps and decoys used by poachers who frequently enter the reserve; and d) our wonderings with host Khalid Al-Ghanem who is extremely knowledgeable and was wonderfully hospitable to us. 

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Expedition: Um Al Maradim Island Kuwait

Late May 2012 - There are still some little-explored places on this Planet. Poorly known, maybe overlooked, perhaps nearly forgotten - with respect to their biodiversity. During the last few days my friends Nancy Papathanasopoulou, Ali Alhafez and other members of our Biodiveristy East link in Kuwait have had the privilege of enjoying nature in this part of the world. The northern part of the Arabian Gulf is a unique ocean water body - and because it is in a part of the world with a turbulent recent history, nature exploration here is still at an embryonic stage. I feel so fortunate to have visited one of Kuwait's most exotic southern islets, Um Al Maradim. This place is not often visited by naturalists - being on the Saudi Arabian - Kuwait Border. With the assistance and generous support of the Kuwaiti Coast Guard we are getting a privileged opportunity to explore the wildlife riches of this "little slice of paradise". We visit to study and document nature - as volunteer naturalists. In the following snap shots I show the beaches, corals, some typical fish species (including an Orange-spot Travalley that we found recently dead), the amazing nesting colony of Bridled Terns, a migrant passerine (Willow Warbler), the unique islet desert vegetation, and the modern coast guard station that hosted us.

One of the most vulnerable natural aspects of the island is the breeding colony of Bridled Terns. If anyone who reads this ever visits the island please take care not to disturb these birds while they nest. They have no natural predators here, only humans. On our visit we went near the scattered colony in order to rapidly investigate, document this, and make a quick assessment. Ali Alhafez took pictures to use in his KEPS Volunteer Team conservation campaign. We were in a rush to go in the colony, document and leave quietly. Our friend, researcher Dr. James Bishop (Kuwait Institute of Scientific Research) has told me that the problem with visiting the nesting areas during breeding season is that the birds are displaced by the intruding people and leave the eggs exposed to the scorching desert sun. Unprotected eggs heat up about 1 C/minute.  So only minutes are necessary to result in thermal death of the chick embryos.  During the day, the parents "sit" on the eggs to keep them cool, not warm! So the colony needs protection from human intruders!

 I want to extend my deepest THANK YOU to the wonderful people in the Coast Guard, with the sincere hope that these subtropical seas will be protected by them and by the people of Kuwait - for the safeguarding of a globally important Natural Heritage. 

Many thanks!

Dr. Stam Zogaris